The whole class heaved a sigh of relief when Dr Abajingin decided to call it a day. We’d been in class for four straight hours supposedly listening to EEG 401 lectures. The course, Electromechanical Wave Theory, was, to half of us, another deliberate creation of a group of disturbed individuals headed by a certain long-dead Maxwell, meant to cause engineering students grievous mental harm and consistent sleepless nights.
We all stood up, and waited for whoever the frail-looking prof would select that evening to lead us in closing prayers.
Dr Abajingin is a weird being. His lectures, usually far apart, was no less than a gathering of forced worshippers at the temple of some lost god. To start with, he always started his classes with an opening prayer and ended with a closing prayer. And like a pseudo-religious gathering, he always spent the first twenty minutes of the class giving what resembled a sermon complete with popular bible verses. When he now decided to start lectures, he is wont to open the error-riddled textbook he authored, pick a chapter, and read to the class. If the spirit willed him to, he’d solve an example in the book for us and give assignments that would be different and difficult than that he had solved practically every session for years. I used to think the man was a hopeless nut case, but with time, I discovered he did not even have a case, hopeless or not.
“You!” The Dr’s coarse voice like my dog’s suppressed barks went out across the hall to someone I didn’t immediately recognise. All eyes swayed towards the direction the voice was aimed at. I wanted to look in the direction too until I realised I was actually the one the spirit had chosen.
“I sir?” I asked in a surprisingly calm voice.
“Yes, you.” He paused and took off his white cap, preparatory to the beginning of prayers.
Shock descended on me as I realised I was to lead a prayer for the day. I cleared my throat, looked around, removed my imaginary cap in a deliberate mimic the Dr missed, and settled for prayer time.
I could hear giggles and sarcastic coughs all around me but I ignored them and closed my eyes.
“Father, thank you for everything. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.”
I was through in all of seven seconds.
When I opened my eyes, the prof happened to be in my line of vision. As we locked eyes, I could see indifference in his eyes.
“What’s your name boy?” He asked, his face betrayed no emotion.
“Kenechukwu, are you a Christian or a Muslim?”
The question was unexpected because I just prayed in Jesus’ name. I answered nonetheless. “A Christian sir.”
“No. I seriously doubt that. A Christian would never pray like a pagan. Christianity is not a religion; it is a way of life. And if you live your life like a goat, you end up like one.”
For reasons they alone knew, the class burst into laughter.
“Kenechukwu,” the Dr stated slowly, his breathing suddenly heavy and forced, “pray for us.”
I sighed, rolled my eyes and tried again. I was confused for I really didn’t know what to pray for or how to pray. As I struggled within me, an idea dropped into my head. The idea was so good I smiled inwardly. If I had been bold enough to laugh out loud, I am sure I would have reminded the class of an overfed hyena.
“Let us pray,” I said for the second time that evening.
There was seriousness around the Lecture Theatre now. It was as if my spirit had communicated the moment to them.
I cleared my throat and began:
“As our saviour taught us, so we pray.” I paused to see if there’d be any chuckle. There was none. So I continued:
“Our Father who hath in heaven. Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come…” Before I knew it, the whole class was saying the Lord’s Prayer with me.
“…but deliver us from all evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
The Amen resounded across the hall.
Fearfully, I opened my eyes to observe the class. Everyone was focused on Dr Abajingin. I turned to look at him too.As a matter of familiarity, we all knew the prayers were ‘accepted’ when the man returned the cap to his bald head.
But for a while he didn’t. Instead, he looked round the class, shook his head and walked out, cap in hand.